Housing, recession blamed for DPS teacher cuts

Posted at 6:06 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 01:11:36-05

The really low enrollment in some Denver Public Schools means fewer teachers in certain classrooms.

Facing a $20 million budget hole, Denver Public Schools are having to cut 157 full-time educators from its central office, of which district leaders say 50 will likely be hired back in local schools. The rest will lose their jobs.

“Some of those are vacant positions, but some of those are actual people who have lost their positions,” said Mark Ferrandino, who’s the Chief Financial Officer for Denver Public Schools.

Ferrandino said enrollment district-wide is actually up 1.8 percent, however lower grades and schools in Northwest Denver are being impacted the most.

The district blames the recession in 2008 for lower enrollment. Ferrandino said it’s a time when people stopped having children in order to focus their finances in the recession elsewhere and that ripple effect is now being felt on the elementary school level.

The district also said home prices soaring in Northwest Denver is causing many low income families to move out of the district, causing a dip in enrollment.

Ferrandino said the school funding formula is continuing to cut into their efforts to throw money into schools.  He says the district still isn’t back to funding levels from five years ago and current funding hasn’t been adjusted to inflation.

“It is difficult where we are as a city and school district to fund all the needs requested given the low funding we are seeing from the state," said Ferrandino. “Cuts to K-12 education while we're giving TABOR rebates to people, that's a difficult thing and we're going to have to deal with it."

The teachers union in Denver Public Schools disagrees with some of the districts rationale for making building educator cuts.

One union representative told Denver7 Beach Court Elementary School in Northwest Denver is losing three teachers next year, while adding a part-time teacher/administrator. 

The representative said in recent years, two and a half administrators have been added at that school, while at the same time teacher cuts are being made.

The representative questions the value of adding staff that has limited contact with students, while eliminating staff that is integral in the student's learning.

The representative also tells Denver7, a drop in enrollment hasn't been seen at schools like Beach Court like the district describes. They say while some lower income families are moving out of that school and the district because of real estate spikes, other higher income families are filling their spots.

Ferrandino says it’s impossible to cut $20 million and not have some teachers and students feel the impact.

The district says budgets aren’t yet finalized and teachers places, so the net loss to teachers isn’t yet known.

Ferrandino said this isn’t a reality only in Denver Public Schools, but all across the state.


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